Energy Business

Why the Exxon Dividend Is Safe After Poor Earnings

Paul Ausick

Exxon Mobil Corp. (NYSE: XOM) reported estimated second-quarter 2015 results before markets opened Friday morning. For the quarter, the integrated oil & gas giant posted quarterly diluted earnings per share (EPS) of $1.00 on revenues of $74.11 billion. In the same period a year ago, the company reported EPS of $2.05 on revenues of $111.21 billion. Second-quarter results compare to the Thomson Reuters consensus estimates for EPS of $1.11 on revenues of $72.48 billion.

Profits in the second quarter fell 52%, from $8.78 billion in the year-ago quarter to $4.19 billion. Oil equivalent production rose 3.6% year-over-year, with liquids up 11.9% and natural gas production down 5.8%. As a percentage of revenues costs rose from about 87% in the second quarter of 2014 to 90% this year. Given the low prices for crude, the increase in costs just added insult to injury.

In the upstream division profits fell from $5.9 billion in the second quarter of 2014 to $2 billion this year. Lower price realizations cut earnings by $4.5 billion while higher volumes improved earnings by $330 million. Exxon also took a one-time charge of $260 million related to a tax increase in Alberta.

In the downstream division profits totaled $1.5 billion, up $795 million year-over-year. Stronger margins boosted earnings by $1.1 billion, while higher volume and mix effects decreased earnings by $80 million. Higher maintenance costs and other items reduced profits by $230 million.

Liquids production increased by 3.6% to 2.3 million barrels a day, up 243,000 barrels a day. Natural gas production slipped by 622 million cubic feet per day year-over-year. Upstream operations posted a loss of $47 million, down from a profit of $1.2 billion in the same quarter a year ago.

Sales of refined petroleum products totaled 5.7 million barrels a day, some 104,000 barrels a day less than the same quarter in 2015.

Chemical division profits rose $405 million to a total of $1.9 billion.

Capital and exploration spending in the quarter totaled $8.3 billion, down 16% year-over-year.

During the second quarter of 2015, Exxon distributed $4.1 billion to shareholders, including share buybacks totaling $1 billion. The company paid a quarterly dividend per share of $0.73, up from $0.69 per share in the second quarter of last year. The stock’s dividend yield is 3.7%.

Rex Tillerson, Exxon’s CEO, said:

Our quarterly results reflect the disparate impacts of the current commodity price environment, but also demonstrate the strength of our sound operations, superior project execution capabilities, as well as continued discipline in capital and expense management.

The company did not provide guidance in its press release, but analysts are expecting third quarter EPS of $1.04 on revenues of $73.8 billion compared with EPS of $1.89 and revenues of $107.49 billion in the third quarter of 2014.

Exxon’s shares traded down about 1.8% in Friday’s pre-market at $81.50 in a 52-week range of $78.97 to $1000.43. Thomson Reuters had a consensus analyst price target of $92.18 before today’s report.

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